Friday, November 14, 2008

SPOTY: Chris Gayle – Zephirine

My nomination for Overseas Sports Personality of the Year is Chris Gayle, Captain of the Stanford Cricket Superstars and recent winner of a million dollars.

For anyone who’s been in the Sahara, in rehab, on the space shuttle or otherwise out of reach of the sports media lately, I should explain that on November 1st this year Texan millionaire Allen Stanford hosted the ‘20/20 for 20’ match at his own cricket ground in Antigua. His Superstars team vs the England national side – the winners to share $20 million, the losers to get nothing.

This sledgehammer incentive drove the media crazy, as intended. UK newspapers were full of articles about how this was the death of the game, the noble traditions were being abandoned in favour of meretricious cricket-for-dummies, at the behest of a crass moneybags who was openly bored by five-day, pure, real Test cricket. Pundits opined and blogs buzzed.

Meanwhile, the Superstars team started an intensive training programme, captained by Chris Gayle, a 29-year-old Jamaican left-handed batsman with attitude. West Indies international cricket is complicated and like most Boards the WICB is unpopular. Now Gayle had a chance to work with his team, some of them newcomers, away from the political problems and sponsorship in-fighting.

The England players were accused by the media of being mercenaries while constantly being asked what they would spend the money on. It was assumed they would win. Pink Ferraris were mentioned. But once in Antigua, they fell apart: on the day, they gave a truly appalling display as the winner-takes-all pressure visibly did their heads in, and set the Superstars a target of only 100 runs to win.

Gayle and his team played with verve, athleticism, concentration and apparently no nerves. They knocked off the 100 runs in 12 overs, with Gayle scoring a succession of sixes. They got the runs and took the money.

And this is why I am nominating Gayle: because it did his head in too. Later he admitted he felt “really stressed out” - he needed the money to pay for medical treatment for his brother and his father. But he conquered the nerves. At the wicket he was all confidence, and it conveyed to his team.

In the end, the match didn’t belong to Stanford, it belonged to the Superstars. They transcended the image of a rich man’s playthings and took control of the moment, and that was down to the leadership of Chris Gayle. In an era when sports are more and more dominated by wealthy investors, on Antigua’s Independence Day he showed exactly how to deal with that. No matter how much controversy and razzmatazz the rich guys create while promoting their brands, if you play the sport supremely well you can take it away from them and bring it back where it belongs - to the players and the fans.

23 comments:

Allout said...

A good read as always zeph.

At the risk of being called a pedant (what was that you said?) the following sentence was not entirely correct.

"the winners to share $20 million, the losers to get nothing"

The two boards got a set amount (I think it was $3.5 million each) of the pot regardless of who won.

Thus, all this T20 for 20 marketing was a load of tripe - it was really "T20 for 13" but I suppose that doesn't have the same ring to it!

Short Backward Square said...

Yep I'd go for Chris Gayle too.
Or perhaps Kevin Pietersen.

Zephirine said...

I thought the 7m for the boards was over and above the 20 mill? But I defer, Allout, you're usually more accurate than I am:)

Sometime between now and the next Stanford Series, somebody should compare the winnings with other sports... each winning player got about the same as you'd get for winning Wimbledon, for instance... Lewis Hamilton will make £15 million this year, I believe. So a lot of it was hype - it wasn't unimaginable wealth. Though it's obviously going to buy a lot more in the Caribbean than in London.

Zephirine said...

Hi, ShortBackwardSquare! I used to be irritated by Pietersen, but I'm coming round. Let's see how he handles the end of the honeymoon:)

offsideintahiti said...

Very tight.

The writing, not the match (apparently).

MotM said...

Nice work Zeph.

Crystal Gayle - his book is going to be good!

greeengrass said...

Thanks, Zeph!
So Gayle managed to unite a West Indies side.
Bugger the SPOTY, then - let's have him succeed Ban-Ki Moon at the UN!

zeph said...

gg, it was 'a W Indies side'not 'THE W Indies side', so maybe selected to avoid some of the politics...quite a few young guys, several of whom had been overlooked for the official team. I don't know if Gayle selected them himself or with the coach that Stanford brought in. But yes, they seem to have shown the WICB how to do it:)

zeph said...

Offie: no, the match was somewhat like this but with more palm trees.

offsideintahiti said...

Hearbreaking stuff, Zeph, I love those little fellows. They're amazing to watch and quite clever. If only they weren't so tasty... especially prepared like this:

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tielle

Remind me never to bring one into the taproom. I'd feel almost guilty.

offsideintahiti said...

Heartbreaking, even.

Erm, so, walloped, flattened, annihilated and then some? Too bad there isn't a France cricket team, that might be good for English morale. For a few years, anyway.

zeph said...

But Offie, there is
a France cricket team:)
I think most of the players are English or Asian, but that's true here, too.

I'd prefer the Tielle with sardines, not very keen on eating octopi or octopodes. Kind of a rubbery, hard-boiled-eggy texture...

offsideintahiti said...

Zeph,

that's obviously a hoax. I can't believe you fell for that one. I mean, come on, the page is in English, for a start.

guitou said...

France cricket, never heard of it until today-that's tell ya how instructive this pseuds can be.

zeph said...

Offie, Guitou: There seems to be cricket going on in St Vallier de Thiey, Cabris and Entrecasteaux so you see how it's sneakily invading even your home region while you two are away in foreign lands.... however I suspect these are expat drinking clubs with cricket attached:)

ElSell said...

Im pretty sure that i heard of the French playing in the world cup qualifiers along with the Dutch, Irish and Scottish a few years ago!?

guitou said...

zeph,elsell,
you can't be sérious it's common knowledge how much the french are suffering from such a lack of dicipline.They can't play even baseball they'll go on strike before to strike out-

guitou said...

zeph,elsell,
you can't be sérious it's common knowledge how much the french are suffering from such a lack of dicipline.They can't play even baseball they'll go on strike before to strike out-

zeph said...

ElSell, you're quite right, but these two Francais find it very difficult to believe:)

Mac Millings said...

Zeph,

I wasn't convinced at the start - I'm not a fan of introducing subjects by using the "For anyone who's been on mars/under a rock" type phrase - and in this case, I believe that there is indeed access to TV on the space shuttle, in the Sahara, and even in rehab (apparently).

But that's just me, and it's a minor quibble, because you had me on your side soon after that with what was both a sharp and a heartfelt piece of writing.

I'm still voting for Sirallen, though.

zeph said...

Good point, Mac. I think I spent too much of the piece describing the event when it should have been all about Gayle.

The Sahara stuff was a bit of a dig at the Guardian guys too because they really over-covered the event, usually from the same angle... that probably didn't go down too well:)

mac millings said...

Hi Zeph,

I don't think the point I was trying to make came out how I was trying to make it...not to worry, it was trivial. Main point, I enjoyed reading the piece.

I look forward to reading the next non-winners in a few days.

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